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Monday, April 12, 2021

Phil Scott of Wharf Revue: Take 5

Phil Scott has returned to Canberra as part of local favourite The Wharf Revue for their Goodnight and Goodluck tour, as The Wharf’s longstanding relationship with the Sydney Theatre Company ends after 20 years.

Scott has been performing as an actor, singer, pianist, writer and comedian in Australia for decades.

The Wharf’s farewell season is currently underway at Canberra Theatre Centre’s Playhouse, continuing until 12 December; click here for more.

What’s stood out to you in 2020 as being ripe for satire?

Phil Scott: “The two major ones obviously are the pandemic, but also the American election and ongoing laughable results of that with Trump refusing to concede.

“They’re certainly major topics in this show, but we also open with a scene where it looks like we’ve been waiting on stage for about nine months to do it, since the season has been postponed.

“We make jokes about all the great material we had to drop because it went out of date like ScoMo in Hawaii and the Bridget Mackenzie sport rorts that seem so long ago but happened this year.”

In the fast-moving world of politics and current affairs, how is the show kept up to date?

“What we generally do is, of course, we keep an eye on the news, we try to work in current references as we go into pieces that already exist in the show,” he said.

“If you’ve got a piece about ScoMo or Pauline Hanson it’s pretty easy to slip something in if something comes up in the news cycle rather than replace entire musical sequences … When you do that it complicates things in all sorts of ways.

“We have done before; one year we came to Canberra to open on the Tuesday night, arrived on the Monday night when Turnbull rolled Abbott … We then had a 15-minute piece to write that day.”

Does The Wharf Revue farewell season have a sense of occasion to it?

“Yes, to a certain extent, it’s the last we are going to do with Sydney Theatre Company, we are very seriously considering producing our own show which may look a little different,” he said.

“It will be the same material, same people, but won’t have the massive resources of STC behind us.

“Already talking to Canberra about doing that at the end of next year, nothing’s guaranteed, but that’s our plan.”

Over the past 20 years of Wharf Revue, what memories resonate with you the most?

“Some of the characters we’ve taken on and we’ve played a lot … they’ve been the highlights,” he said.

“For me, doing Kevin Rudd, and John Howard before that, they were things I could get into in a long-term way and polish rather than do a quick one-off sketch.

“Rudd has of course put himself back into the public arena to examine News Limited, I mean, media diversity,” Scott smiled.

How have the performances changed over that time?

“It’s changed in one very interesting way, which is that it is not really acceptable anymore for us to do characters of different races,” he said.

“People don’t take it as satire anymore, and social attitudes change all the time.

“An example of that is that in this show there are three musical numbers in a row about world dictators, Vladimir Putin, Jair Bolsonaro, third one deals with the Kim dynasty, and rather than playing it as Kim Jong Un, I play it as Elton John being co-opted by North Korea in the way they do with Dennis Rodman.

“We strike a balance, but I think certainly move with the times.”

Phil Scott’s answers have been condensed for publication.

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